On the 28th of January 2021, it was reported in The University Observer that Professor Dolores Cahill was to be the host of a package holiday to Ireland being offered, as well as the “Irish Founder” of the company offering the holiday, Freedom Airway and Freedom Travel Alliance (FAFTA).
Since the publication of this story, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has stated that it is still “too early” to announce when lockdown level 5 will end, making it a near certainty that Ireland will still be in level 5 come the 17th of March, St. Patrick’s Day. The Holiday is still being advertised. The text of the advertisement reads “Ready to celebrate Freedom & Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland? Nothing is more Irish than this trip hosting[sic] by our very own Freedom Fighter, Dr. Dolores Cahill!”.
An Garda Síochána declined the opportunity to comment on specific individuals or companies currently operating under level 5 lockdown but did share a link to information regarding current Covid restrictions for international travellers visiting Ireland, and for domestic travel in Ireland. They also highlighted the current use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for non-essential travel. At present, FPNs of up to €500 can be issued for those flouting lockdown rules. These rules include a 5km limit on non-essential travel. Holiday-making is not deemed essential.
There is also a requirement for all international travellers arriving in Ireland, save those arriving from the Northern Ireland, to produce a negative or ‘not-detected’ result from a pre-departure Covid-19 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, which was carried out no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in Ireland. Those unable to produce such a result are barred from boarding the ferry or aircraft to Ireland, and upon arrival, this result must also be provided to Irish Immigration Officers. Those arriving without such results or a valid exemption can face fines of up to €2,500 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment. They will also be required to take an RT-PCR test at their own expense upon arrival, and failure to do so will be a second offence.
Speaking on The Corbett Report, Professor Cahill stated “Freedom Airways will leverage now the network we have of lawyers, so that if you fly on freedom airways, so that you can be covered. That is the idea. That if you come to a passport or immigration, the idea would be that you either have something printed out to say you cannot force me to do a test, or potentially ideally we would like to have hotlines of lawyers, say, in Canada or potentially the ideal thing would be if you fly on Freedom Airways that we would have been able to pre-negotiated that, or potentially take legal cases, precedence cases in the country so if you were flying from Dublin to Toronto, or Dublin to Miami, that we could take precedence cases to ensure our inalienable rights”. Neither Professor Cahill nor FAFTA have responded to queries from The University Observer as to what, if any, plans have been made regarding the legality of the trip, or of plans for compensation for customers should the journey be prevented from happening due to lockdown.
All international passengers arriving in Ireland, save for essential supply chain workers such as airline or maritime staff, must also complete a “Passenger Locator” form. Failure to complete this form may result in a €2,500 fine, 6 months imprisonment, or both. It is unclear if FAFTA regards this measure as a violation of “natural law”, due to them being an impediment to unrestricted travel.
Despite previous claims on their website, FAFTA is not registered in the UK. On January 28th, The University Observer contacted the company, which lists UCD Professor and Irish Freedom Party candidate Dolores Cahill as their “Irish Founder”, with a query regarding the registration of the Company. At the time the website stated “FAFTA is registered in the UK and USA as a British American joint venture”, although there did not seem to be any record of the company’s existence in the UK at the time. Although the query was, and still is, unanswered, the website has since been updated to state “FAFTA is set to be registered in the UK and USA as a British American joint venture”.
The University Observer also contacted Professor Cahill with the same query. While FAFTA is not registered in the UK, records available from the UK Government’s Companies House show that she is the Director of HAPPENMEDIA LTD, as of 27 January 2021. The company was registered this year and to an address in Brighton, England.
Professor Cahill did not respond to queries about her involvement in HAPPENMEDIA, although she is involved with happen.network, a self-described “forward-thinking digital media and social platform”. Currently, the happen.network website displays a box stating “coming soon”, and space to enter an email address so that interested parties can be informed “as soon as we launch”.
Happen.network is also the group who created The New Normal, a conspiracy theory documentary film which, according to happen.network, asks “Will the new vaccine allow our lives to return back to normal or does it mark a pivotal point in the evolution of humanity (one that is driven by artificial intelligence, will reimagine capitalism and be governed by extreme tyrannical laws that are dictated by global elites)?”. The documentary promotes the debunked conspiracy theories that Bill Gates had prior knowledge of Covid-19, that the vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech skipped the animal testing stage, and that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns are to ensure the smooth global rollout of 5G.
Professor Cahill appears in the film and promoted it on her Facebook page. On her Facebook post, she described the film as “A great documentary that investigates The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. She did not mention any other aspect of the documentary.
Facebook users have alleged that their comments critical of FAFTA have been deleted on the FAFTA Facebook page. One Canadian user who had posted critical comments told a journalist for The University Observer “She[one of FAFTA’s founders] is constantly deleting people’s comments, even legitimate questions on the FAFTA page”. FAFTA themselves have posted screenshots of Facebook messages claiming the business is illegitimate, on a post titled “Don’t Feed the Trolls”. FAFTA did not respond to a request for comment asking if they had deleted comments.
When asked what advice can be offered to potential customers should lockdown prevent their holiday taking place, a spokesperson for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) stated:
The CCPC as an enforcement body cannot comment on the trading practices of individual businesses. However, generally consumer law requires that businesses provide adequate and accurate information so that consumers can make informed decisions when undertaking transactions. The CCPC’s role is to enforce consumer protection law. If a consumer believes that they have been misled by any businesses we encourage them to contact us through our website ccpc.ie or by calling us on 01 4025500.
Consumers who book holidays or tickets should be prepared that at the very least their plans may be disrupted and they will lose money. If a consumer chooses to proceed with their non-essential travel and is stopped by An Garda Síochána outside their 5km, they risk a substantial fine and potentially the cost of their holiday. If a consumer chooses to book travel plans, we would advise them to carefully read the terms and conditions of all contracts (such as package holidays or car hire) they may have entered into so they are aware of the terms and conditions particularly around cancellations.
For your information, in response to COVID-19, the CCPC developed a dedicated COVID-19 Information Hub which details, in one place, all relevant information on consumer rights and current issues such as: package holidays and travel, insurance, online shopping and cancelled contracts. It also provides information to businesses particularly in relation to their obligations under consumer protection law.
The UCD School of Medicine did not respond to a request for comment as to whether they were formally aware of Professor Cahill’s involvement in business ventures linked to Covid denial.